Have you ever told your team “OK let’s brainstorm…” and then the free flow of great ideas didn’t exactly flow? Maybe the environment or timing was not quite right. Maybe the presence of executives made it too risky to share freely. Maybe you just needed a good dose of the Gilligan Effect.
There’s a good chance that even my international friends have heard of the American 60’s sitcom Gilligan’s Island. I’m proud to say that some of us latchkey kids watched every episode. More than once.
Little buddy Gilligan was the cornerstone of the show. It wasn’t called Skipper’s Island or Ginger’s Island. Gilligan’s bumbling initiated most of the problems and failed rescue attempts the castaways experienced. But his blissfully positive attitude and constant inability to do anything right endeared him to the audience.
What you may not remember is that his bumbling was often the catalyst for solutions as well. For example, if the group was brainstorming how to get more food, Gilligan would blurt out a joke like “I don’t know about you but I could use a milkshake right about now.” Then the Professor would snap his fingers and say “I’ve got it! We harness the power of the next earthquake to shake the coconuts out of the trees!”
You may have heard that effective brainstorming should always be inclusive to any idea, no matter how “dumb” it seems in your head. Gilligan’s dumb comments often triggered someone else to come up with a solution. This is because some people are free thinkers, and some people are good at connecting dots. If you allow the group to throw out more dots overall, you increase the odds of a solution coming together for a dot-connector. That’s the Gilligan Effect.
I’m not saying you should invite more lovable, bumbling idiots to your brainstorming sessions, but maybe you can unlock more great ideas from your team by setting a tone for free thinking. Write every idea down without pre-judging and make sure EVERYONE participates. Only then can you start connecting the dots.
And maybe… just maybe… if you can build durable housing and scientific instruments out of bamboo and coconuts… you can figure out a way to patch a simple hole in a boat.